10th Classical Tamil Summer Seminar in 2012

Organised by the Centre of the École française d'Extrême-Orient in Pondicherry, 6th to 31th of August 2012

CTSS 2012

This summer the CTSS will take place for the 10th time, certainly a reason to celebrate. We shall read, for the first two weeks, Nammāḻvār'sTiruviruttam, a small anthology of a hundred verses in Antāti mode that forms part of the Vaishnava bhakti corpus, the Tivyappirapantam (around 8th century of the Common Era). It is fascinating on the one hand for its experimental adaptation of elements from the earlier erotic poetry (Akam), on the other hand for the efforts made by its medieval commentators in order to give a theological interpretation. For most of us it might be the last opportunity of hearing the explanations of pandit R. VARADADESIKAN, who, with 89 years, is finally about to retire from the office he has held for more than 40 years. The second two weeks will be devoted to the Peruṅkatai, an incomplete epic poem of the late first millennium which might be the oldest surviving testimony of narrative materials belonging to the tradition of the Bṛhatkathā. A chosen episode will be explained by Professor G. VIJAYAVENUGOPAL.

The study of Classical Tamil is not widespread or prominent in the West. The EFEO Centre can offer the opportunity of approaching the difficult material by reading and discussing texts and commentaries both with Indian and Western scholars. For the time being the EFEO still employs three Indian scholars of Tamil: R. VARADADESIKANfor Vaishnava literature, G. VIJAYAVENUGOPALas an epigraphist and T.RAJESWARIas a manuscriptologist. Western Tamil scholars have few opportunities to meet - for them the CTSS provides an occasion of intensive exchange and collaboration. The CTSS is intended to ensure, along with some basic philological training, the transmission of some of the ancient knowledge and literary vision of the pandits. Even though several institutions have manuscripts, collected with the intention of preserving Tamil cultural patrimony, this is not to say that these manuscripts have been studied or published. There is a need for researchers to do this work. This course is thus in a position to make an important contribution to the training of future generations of scholars, being centrally placed at the meeting point between continuity and renewal in Tamil studies.


The main morning class for the advanced students will be split into two sessions, from 10-11.30a.m. and from 11.45a.m.-1p.m. (with a coffee break in between). The main morning text class will be held for the first two weeks by pandit R. VARADADESIKAN, for the second two weeks by ProfessorG. VIJAYAVENUGOPAL, and is followed by a grammar class of revising and analysing the morning's verses. The afternoons will partly be devoted to personal preparations, partly to further reading groups withT.RAJESWARI (Kamparāmāyaṇam) and Jean-Luc CHEVILLARD (grammatical literature).

Twice a week in the early evenings then there will again be a joint programme in the customary evening lectures. We hope also to be able to maintain our concert tradition on Friday evenings...

Beginner's Class

The beginners will start early in the morning with a grammar class from 8.30-10a.m. For the rest of the morning they will have personal preparation time. In the early afternoon, then, they can participate in the general reading groups (2.30-4p.m.), while in the late afternoon, after tea break, they will have a text class (4.30-6p.m.).

Who can participate?

As usual, we look forward to welcoming back former participants. Anybody with at least a basic knowledge of the Classical language will be most welcome. We would also like strongly to encourage Indian students to participate in our classes (and for them there will be specially reduced fees).

Apart from the advanced seminar there will be a beginners' level, provided there is a minimum number of five people who wish to attend it. Beginners please register before the end of May 2011 so that we can do some planning.


Practical organisation rests, as ever, in the hands of the secretary of the EFEO centre in Pondicherry, Mrs Prerana PATEL (preranapatel@efeo-pondicherry.org). Please contact her for any practical question. Amoderate fee will be levied. As the EFEO is currently having to adjust to a tight budget, we would appreciate being able to calculate more precisely the number of people likely to be expected. We have therefore drawn up an application form which has to be filled up and sent to the address above as soon as possible, at the latest, however, by the end of June 2012.

Application form to download (file Word .doc)

For further information contact: wilden.eva@gmail.com

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